Service standards upheld despite rising fuel costs

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EMERGENCY services across Suffolk have vowed that response standards will be maintained despite being hit by escalating fuel costs.

Police, fire and ambulance authorities have forked out hundreds of thousands of pounds extra on fuel bills as prices soared in the last year.

However, bosses stressed that measures have been introduced to offset the costs and maintain standards.

Suffolk Police, which spent £150,000 more than expected on fuel last year, is using video conferencing at certain stations to save officers having to drive to meetings.

It is circulating good driving tips to promote car sharing, more economical driving and using cheaper petrol stations.

In a further move, the authority has bought more smaller vehicles to reduce fuel consumption.

A spokesman said: “Petrol prices have increased by approximately 25 per cent over the last four years. By implementing these measures, the constabulary has been able to limit its increase in fuel costs to 16 per cent over the last four years.”

Meanwhile, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s bill is estimated to rise from £220,000 in 2009/10 to £290,000 this financial year.

Mark Sanderson, assistant chief fire officer, said: “Funding for fuel cost increases is found through efficiency savings. These are made in addition to the general budget reductions, which are required to meet the Government’s savings targets.

“We are already a lean and efficient service but we continue to look for new ways to reduce our fuel costs and fuel usage so that we can continue to provide a service, which is as green as possible and represents good value for money for taxpayers.”

The East of England Ambulance Service saw spending shoot up by £250,000 in 12 months, from £480,006 in January 2010 to £736,134 a year later.

A spokeswoman added: “The increase has been in part due to rising fuel prices but also because the number of emergency calls went up by 4.2 per cent between 2009/10 and 2010/11.

“Our fuel budget for this year was set in January and the rising costs will have no impact on provision of patient care.